High Hopes, Discouraging Figures: Is Oman's tourism sector struggling?
The number of tourists visiting Salalah in the first four weeks of the Khareef season has dropped massively by 62.2 per cent as compared to last year. The season begins on June 21 every year. However, with long Eid holidays due, hoteliers are optimistic that the scene will change drastically.
For the period June 21 to August 18 this year, the total number of visitors to the place stood at 42,448 as against 112,397 registered in 2012.
The drop was seen in visits by people of all nationalities. The numbers of visitors from Bahrain dropped 83.4 per cent, UAE (72.1 per cent), Saudi Arabia (64.8 per cent) and Oman (65.4 per cent) among others.
The National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), in cooperation with Ministry of Transport and ROP, carries out a survey to keep a tab on the number of visitors to the Dhofar region during Khareef. An official at NCSI said that the decline is mostly due to Ramadan falling right at the beginning of the Khareef season. “Due to Ramadan, the annual Salalah Festival was also postponed for after Eid, so there wasn't much activity during the first month of the season.” However, he added that like last year, there will be huge influx during Eid and the rush is expected to at least last for the month of August.
Echoing his views Nader Halim, general manager, Hilton Salalah Resort, said that he was expecting almost full occupancy at his hotel during the Eid holidays. “We are optimistic that the numbers will be high for till about September 1.”
On the decline during Ramadan, he said that it was more or less same as compared to last year. “For Ramadan per se, the numbers have been about the same, as we know most people like to stay back at home with families.” Benett Francis, business head, Shanfari group of hotels, which runs Haffa House hotels and the largest tourism property in Salalah, the Samharam Tourist Village, also agreed with the sentiment. He said, “Our properties are booked hundred per cent during the holidays and we are hopeful the good run will continue for at least 20 more days till August 28.”
He however, said that during Ramadan the business was down more than 30 per cent as compared to last year. The first two weeks of the season this year had seen a drop of 29 per cent, with 22,356 tourists recorded as against 31,356 in 2012 for the same period.
With 24,295 visitors, Omanis formed the majority of those travelling to Salalah, followed by GCC nationals (8,985). The rest constituted Arabs (1,207), Asians (7,054), Europeans (629), Americans (173), Africans (62) and Oceanians (43).